ESPNDallas.com will compare the Mavericks, Lakers and Rockets in five facets -- other than money -- that could play a role in Dwight Howard's free agency decision in a one-per-day series: owners/front office, coaches, co-stars, supporting casts and franchise tradition. We focused on Chris Paul last week.
The list of teams that can match the Lakers’ tradition is awfully short.
In fact, it features just one team, and the Celtics aren’t going to be involved in this summer’s Dwight Howard derby. The Mavs and Rockets certainly have respectable traditions, but they can’t come close to comparing with a franchise that has 16 NBA championships.
Of course, all-time great big men are a big part of the Lakers’ championship tradition. George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal set a sky-high standard for centers who wear purple and gold. That might not necessarily help the Lakers’ cause in trying to keep Howard.
There’s a ton of pressure that comes along with following that line of legends in the nation’s second largest media market. Shaq’s disdain for Dwight, which manifests itself in many nationally televised verbal jabs, doesn’t help matters. There’s a theory that Howard would prefer to create a different path instead of simply following Shaq’s Orlando-to-Los Angeles footsteps.
And what if Howard doesn’t win a title with the Lakers? That’s a distinct possibility with his fellow future Hall of Famers on the roster closer to the rocking chair than the prime of their careers. He’d be perceived as perhaps the biggest letdown in Lakers history, the lone perennial All-Star big man incapable of lifting his team to the top of the league.
How heavily will that weigh on the mind of a man who has made it clear he’s searching for happiness this summer?
If Howard goes to Houston, he’ll be constantly compared to Hakeem Olajuwon, a Hall of Famer and two-time Finals MVP.
To a lesser degree, there will also be comparisons to Moses Malone and Yao Ming. However, as dominant as Malone was during his Houston days, he never won a ring with the Rockets and isn’t a Houston legend. Ming only got out of the first round once during his injury-abbreviated career.
The Rockets have tradition, but it’s been years since Houston has been considered a legitimate contender. Over the last decade and a half, the Rockets have been a distant third among NBA franchises in this state. The scrutiny wouldn’t be anywhere close to as suffocating as it is in L.A.
All due respect to James Donaldson and Tyson Chandler, but Howard would be the best big man in Mavs history as soon as he tied his shoes. There could still be some unflattering comparisons for Howard when it comes to Chandler’s excellent intangibles, but there’s no question that Howard is the superior center.
While only one championship banner hangs on the Mavs’ side of the American Airlines Center, this franchise has established an impressive winning tradition during Mark Cuban’s ownership tenure. (Or during Dirk Nowitzki’s career, if you want to assign credit to the man who did more heavy lifting.)
The Mavs and Rockets can’t stack up to the Lakers’ tremendous tradition, but that might be a good thing in the Dwight sweepstakes this summer.
EDGE: That all depends on Dwight’s mindset … which infamously can change with the wind.